Police explain dangers of illegal highway U-turns

Iowa News

OXFORD, Iowa (WOI) – Three children died in a car crash Sunday. Their names were just released Monday. They are 11-year-old Oneimus Quaterman, 12-year-old Adaess Adams, and 12-year-old Braden Brown. The crash happened on Interstate 80 near the Oxford interchange. Police said the car was T-boned by a semi. 

Troopers say the car was trying to make an illegal U-turn, using those thin, gravel areas in the median.  

Emergency vehicles are the only ones properly trained on how to do that. That’s because of how dangerous turnarounds are. Imagine going from zero to seventy in a matter of seconds. 

“These turnarounds are intended for emergency personnel only,” says Waukee Patrol Sergeant Hector Arias.

The no turn around signs on I-80 are there for a reason, to protect you. According to Arias, they’re illegal because they’re so dangerous. Only emergency vehicles are trained on how to merge back on to the interstate. 

“That loose gravel really reduces your ability to climb back up to the posted speed limits. It doesn’t allow you to leave that turn around on solid surface so you basically have to crawl out of there and then start accelerating quickly to catch up to 70 MPH on the fast lane.” 

Local 5 wanted to get a first hand look at how emergency crews safely use the turnaround.

“I’m putting on my directional’s so people know to either move over or slow down so for me to safely get in here I literally have to slow down and I am at 50 now to safely get in this turnaround right here. I’m still in the travel portion and I am now clear.”

Once stopped, we checked to see how fast cars were traveling on the opposite side. To ensure our safety, another Waukee officer was in the fast lane watching us before we pulled out. 

It’s clearly a risky maneuver only trained drivers should do. Arias says it’s tempting to use the turnarounds if you miss an exit but just don’t do it. It’s unsafe and you’ll likely land you a ticket.

“We were taught at a very early part in our career that traffic citations are not intended for punishment, the judge will hand out punishment. But it’s to hopefully change behavior.”

Arias says a loaded truck with good tires driving 55 mph on a perfect weather day needs a minimum of 300 feet to come to a complete stop. So keep that in mind next time you head out on the roads.

A few other things to note: sometimes it’s super hard to gauge the speed of other cars and hard to see vehicles in front of big trucks when the sun is out and they are covered by a shadow.

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